Beyond the Wall
The penultimate episode of every season is usually a barnstormer- and this one was no exception! Everything Game of Thrones does so well, from the large scale action sequences to the epic CGI to the emotional well written dialogue, was on show here!
I will perhaps be in the minority here in that I much preferred the dialogue scenes here to the action scenes! I really enjoyed the 'walking and talking' scenes early in the episode. In terms of the comedy aspect, the stand out scene must have been the interaction between Tormond and the Hound, but honourable mentions must go to the Gendry- Brotherhood scene and to Thoro's very positive response to being bitten by a zombie bear.
At the other end of the spectrum, we had a very sombre scene between Jon and Jorah, reflecting on the latter's father and the gifting of Jorah's family sword to Jon. There's obviously a mutual respect there, despite everything Jon has heard from Ned about Jorah's previous crimes. I must admit when Jorah gave the sword back, I was sure that mean't he was dying, but alas he lives to fight another day!
From there, the show efficently changed gears and evolved straight into the action scenes. In retrospect, the Zombie bear scene feels like it was put there to set up the later scene regarding Viserion and to remind everyone that animals can be turned too. Even so, changing a bear into a White is one thing, changing a dragon is another, and I must admit I didnt see it coming at the time.
Viserion's death changes the dynamic of the war, and adds an extra element of danger to the power and magic of the White Walkers and the Nights King. I thought Emilia Clarke played her loss tremendously, and you could almost believe she had lost one of her children.
Clarke further staked her claim as MVP for the season with a very emotional scene with Jon on the boat, where her defences fell further as she got closer to Jon. This scene was easily the strongest of the Jon and Dany scenes so far, in no small part because the groundwork has been laid and built on consistently throughout the season.It will be interesting to see where this goes now, whether they will find out about their familial link, and of course, whether or not Jon will in fact 'Bend the Knee'
On a negative note, this is the first time I felt that the pacing was just too quick, and it took me out of the element a bit at times. It felt like that journey, the delivery of the message to Eastwatch, the Standoff, and subsequent battle should have been spread over a number of episodes rather than crammed into one episode. The pacing probably got to me more than any other minor critisisms ( where did they get those chains from ?), but even so, it doesnt take anything away from the epicness of the battle sequence which proved once again that no one does large scale action better than Game of Thrones.
The episode set up next week's finale well, and it will be interesting to see if the finale is action packed or perhaps more sedate like it has been in previous years.
I think this longer episode and its format is actually a better gauge of what we will get from the show next year with the large scale battles between the Walker threat and the people of Westeros. On this evidence, the final season, as brief as it maybe, is going to be one hell of a ride!